The first day of our trip to Renmark, Mildura, and Robinvale, was Tuesday the 6th day of April 2021. Marija and I made an early morning start and we were on the road by 7.00 a.m. South Australian local time. Our destination for that evening was Renmark in the Riverland region of South Australia where we would be staying for 2 nights before heading to Mildura in Victoria. We left early as there were a few things we wanted to see and do along the way, and we were also hoping to squeeze in a park activation. We had a 278 km drive ahead of us.
Our first stop for the morning was just down the road from home at Strathalbyn where we called in to the local bakery for a coffee and a bacon & egg roll. It was then back on the road and on to Murray Bridge where we crossed over the mighty Murray River. We then took the Karoonda Highway though Chapman Bore and Wynarka, towards the little town of Karoonda.
Prior to reaching Karoonda, we stopped briefly at the little town of Wynarka as there is a small commemorative plaque for Methodist Minister, Rev. John Blacket who conducted the first service in the area back in 1911. The name Wynarka is from an Aboriginal word meaning a strayer.
Sadly, Wynarka has been in the national news in recent years, with the discovery of a young girls remains on the side of the road in a suitcase in 2015.
Not much of Wynarka remains today. The town was proclaimed on the 9th day of January 1913, and its demise was due to the closure of the railway, an issue that Marija and I observe in many of these little country towns.
We continued on to the town of Karoonda about 16 km further up the Highway. Karoonda is often referred to as the Heart of South Australia’s Mallee District. The town of Karoonda was surveyed in 1910. The word Karooonda is aboriginal for ‘winter camp’.
At Karoonda we visited the small RSL park in the main street (Railway Terrace/the Karoonda Highway). There is an information board here about the history of the railway in Karoonda. We also had a look at the Karoonda Centennary Walk which celebrates Karoonda’s pioneers.
Also in RSL Park is ‘Ramifications’, a statue of a Merino Ram, sometimes referred to as ‘The Big Ram’. The statue signifies the importance of sheep farming in the district. When the Murray-Mallee district was opened up to settlement during the early 1900’s, clearing of the mallee scrub commenced for the growing of wheat. By the 1930’s world depression and low prices for grain affected the wheat industry. At the commencement of the Second World War many of the local men left the land for military service. In the early 1950s with the outbreak of the Korean War, a sudden and unprecedented demand for Merino wool was created. As a result sheep became the lead in farm income in the region.
There is also a Police Heritage site memorial in Karoonda. It is to honour Senior Constable Harold Rae Pannell who was murdered in the course of his duty.
In March 1957 Senior Constable Pannell attended a property at nearby Bowhill to serve a warrant on John Fischer. Pannell had arrived with a warrant to seize property after Fischer had failed to pay damages awarded against him in a recent court case. Senior Constable Pannell was shot and murdered by Fischer.
Fischer went to trial for murder, however a jury in the Supreme Court found him not guilty on the grounds of insanity. Justice Reed of the Supreme Court ordered Fischer into strict custody in a mental institution at the Governor’s pleasure. Fishcer died in 1988 at the age of 67.
Senior Constable Pannell was a well respected member of the South Australia Police who faithfully served the community of Karoonda and district from 27th July 1951 until his tragic death.
We then visited the Karoonda silos which have been transformed into what has become very popular in Australia, Silo Art. The Karoonda silo art is the creation of renowned Australian artist Heesco. He is also responsible for silo art at Weethalle and Grenfell prior to Karoonda. The Karoonda Silo Art project was completed on the 26th July 2019. It Heesco about 38 days to paint the South Australian Viterra Silo.
We then visited the Karoonda meteorite monument in RSL Park. At 10.53 p.m. on the 25th day of November 1930, a meteorite fell to earth about 3.6 km from the town. The meteorite was observed falling from the sky from the Eyre Peninsula to mid Victoria. Witnesses described t was ‘turning night into day’.
The Karoonda meteorite was unique in two regards. Firstly it was observed by so many which was uncommon. Secondly it was a rare type, unlike that of any other found. The ‘stony’ meteorite comprised mainly iron silicates and was classified as a “chondritic asiderite”. As a result Karoonda became a household name in scientific circles.
Due to the type of the Karoonda meteorite it shattered on impact and as a result it shook the township of Karoonda creating a crater which was about 46 cm deep with a surrounding ridge a little over one metre across. It scattered fragments over a two metre diameter area.
The largest piece of the Karoonda meteorite weighed 7 lbs (3.2 kg). However the total of all fragments from the meteorite collected came to 92 lbs (41.73 kg).
It was then off to the Karoonda Council office at Railway Terrace, where you can view an actual piece of the Karoonda meteorite. The Karoonda Meteorite attracted world-wide attention and pieces have been exchanged with countries in Europe and America. However, the Karoonda Council has a small piece. We approached the front counter and a young lady brought out the meteorite piece to us which was contained within a display case.
The plate on the front of the display case reads:
“On November 25th 1930 South Australians were started by the appearance of a brilliant “Fire Ball”. As a result of astronomical observations and information received from various localities it seemed probably that a Meteorite had landed somewhere in the neighbourhood of Karoonda.
Under the leadership of Processor Kerr Grant and Mr GF Dodwell a University Party made a thorough search of this District and was rewarded on December 9th by the discovery of the Meteorite, the locality being Lat 35º6 South, Long 139º56 East about 2¼ Miles due East of Karoonda.
The Meteorite material consisted of two large pieces and a very great number of small fragments weighing in all about 92 lbs. The Karoonda Meteorite is of the Stony Type and of very unusual composition. It consists mainly of Silicates of Iron and Magnesium Iron Sulphites and a very small amount of Iron-nickel Alloy.”
We then visited the Karoonda Pioneer Park which contains a magnificent display of old buildings, railway carriages, and other memorabilia associated with Karoonda’s pioneering history. This is well worth a visit and is only a gold coin donation. Marija and I spent quite a bit of time here looking around.
Included in the historic buildings is the original pioneer Methodist Church at Wynarka which was restored and relocated at Pioneer Park. This is the church that was mentioned above in my blog during our visit to Wynarka.
Also located at Pioneer park is an old pioneer farmhouse which was built in 1913 by the Hood family at Sandalwood. It was rebuilt at Pioneer Park and contains many examples of items used during the pioneer days of the Mallee.
You can also view the Kunlara Post and Telephone Office which first opened in 1915 and closed in 1953. It has the title of one of the smallest Post and Telephone Office buildings in South Australia.
We left Karoonda and continued east on the Karoonda Highway. Our next stop was the little town of Lowaldie which was proclaimed in 1914. This town once had a railway station, a school, post office, and institute. Today, these have all closed and the former institute building is used as a private residence. There is a small monument indicating the site of the former school. Lowaldie is an aboriginal word meaning ‘summer’.
We then stopped briefly at Borrika, a little further up the road to view the small memorial for the former Borrika school sites. Borrika school was a one teacher school for all the time it was open – 26 years. Nine teachers taught at Borrika all boarding with local residents.
A little further along the Highway we stopped to have a look at the Goyder’s Line moument. Goyder’s Line was created in 1865 by Surveyor-General George Woodroofe Goyder. It is an ‘imaginary’ line that runs roughly east–west across South Australia and, in effect, joins places with an average annual rainfall of 10 inches (250 mm). To the north of Goyder’s Line, annual rainfall is usually too low to support cropping, with the land being only suitable for grazing. Related to that, the line also marks a distinct change in vegetation. To the south, it is composed mainly of mallee scrub, whilst saltbush predominates to the north of the line.
Our next stop was the little town of Wanbi. It is another town which has fallen victim to the closure of the railway. Wanbi is believed to come from the aboriginal word wandi meaning ‘wild dog’. The town of Wanbi was proclaimed on the 9th July 1914. Sadly the old Wanbi Memorial Hall is in a state of disrepair and the old Wanbi Hotel is no longer in use.
Our next brief stop was the town of Alawoona on the Karoonda Highway. Alawoona is believed to be a corruption of the Aboriginal ngalawuna – ‘place of hot winds’. The town was proclaimed on the 9th July 1914.
We then headed north on the Karoonda Highway and into the Riverland town of Loxton. We visited the Avro Anson Crash Memorial. The memorial is to honour four RAAF crew members who lost their lives when their Avro Anson aircraft crashed during a night navigational training flight on the 24th day of September, 1943. It was a shame we were not allocated with VK100AF or VI100AF on that day. However, I am considering on driving back up to Loxton next month when we have the 2 callsigns allocated to use again.
There is also a plaque commemorating the land of Lancaster Bomber ‘G for George’ in Loxton on the Third Victoru Tour of Australia during the Second World War.
We then visited the Loxton Big Pelican. The history of the Pelican dates back to the 1979 Loxton Mardi Gras when John Draper had the idea to make it for the Loxton Aquatic Club Queen. In close proximity is the Tree of Knowledge which has the high river marks from the various Murray River floods. We enjoyed lunch in the park alongside of the Murray River.
It was then off the Loxton Pioneer Village which contains numerous historic buildings which were relocated or built on site with many replicating original constructions within the district. This is definitely worth a visit if you are in Loxton. Marija and I spent a number of hours here having a look around.
Included at the Pioneer Village is the old F & G Kroeger radio shop. Riverland radio broadcaster 5RM commenced broadcasting in September 1935. This was 11 years after radio transmissions first commenced in Adelaide.
With the arrival of broadcasting came the sales and popularity of battery operated radios. Local businessman Fritz Kroeger sold and services electrical goods, including radios, and offered battery recharge services to the district before the arrival of electrical grids in the 1950’s. Prior to this, Fritz ran his business as an auto electrical mechanic in Loxton.
Before the arrival of televisions to Australia in the mid 1950’s, radio broadcasting was a popular method in delivering news, including informing the nation of vital updates during the Second World War.
Our trip to the Pioneer Village had been extremely interesting, but time was getting away from us a bit and we still needed to get to Renmark and book into our motel, and then hopefully head out to activate the Murray River National Park.
We did however take the time to have a look at the Sturt Memorial in Loxton which commemorates the visit to the area by the famous explorer Captain Charles Sturt and his party who rowed downstream past Loxton on their ‘Great Journey of Discovery’ on the 30th day of January 1830.
We then stopped to have a look at the Weir and Lock 4 at Bookpurnong near Loxton. During the 1920’s a series of Locks and Weirs were installed along the River Murray. They were built to divert water to the emerging agriculture industry and also to improve navigation of boats along the river. There are six such locks in the Riverland region of South Australia.
We then drove into Renmark and booked into our motel, the Citrus Valley Motel, where we regularly stay when we visit Renmark. We unpacked some the Toyota Hil Lux and then headed out to the Lyrup Flats section of the Murray River National Park VKFF-0372.
The Murray River National park was proclaimed in 1991 “to conserve a significant proportion of South Australia’s floodplain environments which are not represented widely in other reserve systems.” The park consists of three sections adjoining the Murray River and extending from near Loxton in the south west to near Renmark in the north-east. The first section is known as the ‘Katarapko’ section and is located on the north side of the Murray River between Loxton in the south and Berri in the north. The second section which is known as the ‘Lyrup Flats’ section is located on the north side of the river midway between Berri and Loxton. The third section is known as the ‘Bulyong’ section is located on the west side of the river upstream from Renmark.
The Lyrup Flats section of the Murray River National Park includes 2,000 hectares along the floodplain on the northern side of the river and ferry at Lyrup.
We accessed the Lyrup Flats section of the park via the Sturt Highway. The park is well signposted. There is a dirt track which will take you right down to the river.
We found a lovely spot right alongside of the river with plenty of room to string out the 20/40/80m linked dipole. We used the 7 metre telescopic squid pole to get the antenna up into the air. The antenna was inverted vee, with the ends weighted down with some fallen tree branches. Our transceiver was the Yaesu FT-857d.
Our activation would count for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program, and the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award. Marija and I have both qualified this park previously in other years, but this would a first time for us in 2021.
First in the log was a Park to Park contact with Marty VK4KC/p who was operating portable in the Cania Gorge National Park VKFF-0074.
The 40m band was in brilliant shape and in very quick time I had 46 contacts in the log and I had qualified the park for the global WWFF program. My 46th contact was another Park to Park, this time with Hans VK6XN/p who was activating the Tuart Forrest National Park VKFF-0498. I had logged VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5, VK6, VK7, and New Zealand. The 40m pile-up was quite amazing. I am very sorry to those who I did not get and gave up.
I then handed over the microphone to Marija who also soon had a mini pile-up on her hands.
Marija soon had 44 contacts in the log and had also qualified the park for both VKFF with 10 QSOs and WWFF with 44 QSOs.
I then jumped back into the operator’s chair and logged a further 18 stations including a Park to Park with Charlie VK3ZD/p who was in the Alpine National Park VKFF-0619.
Time was starting to creep on and I had promised to get to 80m. I am sorry for all of the other stations who were calling on 40m, but I needed to get to 80m and then pack up and get back into Renmark in time for an evening meal.
I logged 17 stations on 80m from VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK5. This included special event station VK100AF for the 100 year anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force.
Again, I apologise to all those who were calling on 80m but we had to go QRT, otherwise we were going to go hungry that night. There were many stations who were calling who we did not have time to log.
This had been quite an amazing activation, with some very big pile-ups which we had not experienced for quite some time.
We ended up with 128 QSOs in the log, including three Park to Park contacts with Marty VK4KC, Hans VK6XN, and Charlie VK3ZD.
We had some company during our activation, a Whistling Kite who perched itself high atop a gum tree overlooking the Murray River.
As we packed up we enjoyed a magnificent sunset.
Marija logged the following stations on 40m SSB:-
- VK4KC/p (Cania Gorge National Park VKFF-0074)
- VK6XN/p (Tuart Forrest National Park VKFF-0498)
I logged the following stations on 40m SSB:-
- VK4KC/p (Cania Gorge National Park VKFF-0074)
- VK6XN/p (Tuart Forrest National Park VKFF-0498)
- VK3ZD (Alpine National Park VKFF-0619)
I logged the following stations on 80m SSB
A compendium of Place Names of South Australia, 2021, <https://published.collections.slsa.sa.gov.au/placenamesofsouthaustralia/W.pdf>, viewed 22nd April 2021
Australian Silo Art Trail, 2021, <https://www.australiansiloarttrail.com/karoonda>, viewed 22nd April 2021
Karoonda.com, 2021, <https://karoonda.com/>, viewed 22nd April 2021
Karoonda Area School, 2021, <http://www.kas.sa.edu.au/docs/history/borrika.pdf>, viewed 22nd April 2021
Loxton Pioneer Village, 2021, <http://www.thevillageloxton.com.au/>, viewed 22nd April 2021
Mallee Highway, 2021, <http://www.malleehighway.com.au/html/karoonda.html>, viewed 22nd April 2021
Monument Australia, 2021, <https://monumentaustralia.org.au/themes/people/crime/display/50966-senior-constable-harold-rae-pannell>, viewed 22nd April 2021
South Australia, 2021, <https://southaustralia.com/products/riverland/attraction/lock-4>, viewed 22nd April 2021
Wikipedia, 2021, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wynarka,_South_Australia>, viewed 21st April 2021
Wikipedia, 2021, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goyder%27s_Line>, viewed 22nd April 2021
Wikipedia, 2021, <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murray_River_National_Park>, viewed 22nd April 2021